Just a few days ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States, India has decided to give impetus to its ‘Vaccine Maitri’ programme. Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya said India will resume the export of surplus Covid-19 vaccines by October. He, however, emphasised that the country’s vaccination drive will remain the Centre’s topmost priority. India is set to receive over 30 crore doses in October and over 100 crore doses in the next three months, he added.
India is the world’s biggest vaccine maker. In March, the Centre halted exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine — one of the cheapest on the market — as the virus wreaked havoc in India during a devastating second wave.
Earlier, there were reports that the US would try and persuade India to contribute more to the global vaccination pool COVAX. A senior Biden administration official was quoted by Reuters as saying the US is communicating regularly with India to discuss the supply of Covid-19 vaccines and inquire about its timeline for restarting vaccine exports.
India has made an effort to increase its own vaccinations in the last one week, especially on September 17, when it recorded over 2.5 crore doses administered in a single day as part of special drives across the country on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday. But the country still needs to fully vaccinate (with both doses) 60 per cent of its population by the end of the year to stop a third wave. The central government’s target was to vaccinate the entire adult population by December 31.
Mandaviya said it was important for India to contribute to COVAX, and that the export of surplus vaccines will begin in the October-December quarter. This is in line with our motto of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, he added. COVAX is co-led by Gavi, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and World Health Organization.
Mandaviya also highlighted the importance of research and production of Covid vaccines in India and praised PM Modi “relentless effort and guidance". “India’s vaccination drive has been a role model for the world and it is marching ahead with great speed," he said. Recently, when India crossed the 75-crore milestone in Covid vaccine doses, WHO also congratulated India for the feat.
Talking about expected production and supply trends, the health minister said over 30 crore doses will be produced in October and more than 100 crore doses by the end of the year.
According to figures by the health ministry, the daily Covid-19 vaccination in the country was over 1 crore on September 6, August 31 and August 27. India took 85 days to touch the 10-crore vaccination mark, 45 more days to cross the 20-crore mark and 29 more days to reach the 30-crore mark. The country took 24 days to reach 40 crore from 30 crore doses and then 20 more days to cross the 50-crore vaccination mark on August 6, the data shows.
It took 19 more days to go past the 60-crore mark and took only 13 days to reach 70 crore from 60 crore on September 7, the ministry said. It then took just 11 days to reach 80 crore from 70 crore.
(With PTI inputs)